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Tomes and Tea Leaves

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Jaimie Admans
On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History
Nicholas A. Basbanes
Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing
Anya Von Bremzen
The Mirror Lied: One Woman's 25-Year Struggle with Bulimia, Anorexia, Diet Pill Addiction, Laxative Abuse and Cutting.
Marc A. Zimmer, N.R. Mitgang, Ira M. Sacker
Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear: Inside the Land of Ballet
Stephen Manes
Curtis Sittenfeld
Gail Godwin
The Old Curiosity Shop
Charles Dickens, Norman Page
The English Eccentrics
Edith Sitwell, Richard Ingrams (Introduction)
Self-Portrait with Ghosts - Kelly Dwyer Self-Portrait with Ghosts tells the story of a woman, Kate, and her daughter, Audrey, who are forced to cope with the the suicide of their brother/uncle Luke. The story is told in alternating chapters, told in the present via Kate/Audrey, and in flashback via Luke. These flashback chapters explain Luke's life and what leads to his suicide. What emerges from this is that Luke is desperately, almost hopelessly depressed, and the rest of the family is plagued by problems too. The result of Luke's suicide is that it ultimately brings the family together, particularly Kate and her estranged sister Colleen. Clearly the saddest character in the book is Luke, who is extremely depressed, to a level that anti-depressants cannot help. He seems, in short, to be wired differently in a way that is incompatible with life. Luke is presented as the kindest and least flawed character. In Dwyer's presentation it's almost as if luke *has* to die. He's the saintly sacrifice that mends his family's wounds. Luke is kind, he's quiet, he gets along with all of his family members, he's generous. These are all things of which the rest of the family falls short. The irony in the story is that Luke's calmness and kindness are what allow the family to stay divided. His moderating influence preserves the divide. Ultimately, I'm struggling to find the larger point of this book. There's a great deal of sadness, some heartfelt family moments, but there didn't seem to be a larger takeaway. While engaging enough to read, it's not the sort of book that left me thinking about it afterward.